Birmingham: Blackhawk Racing race report

GAINSCO team's stellar effort knocked out of contention by late-race penalty BIRMINGHAM, Ala.- After taking the pole and leading the first 20 laps of the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant this afternoon at Barber Motorsports Park, the ...

GAINSCO team's stellar effort knocked out of contention by late-race penalty

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.- After taking the pole and leading the first 20 laps of the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant this afternoon at Barber Motorsports Park, the driving team of Alex Gurney and Bob Stallings seemed poised to put the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley atop the podium. But it wasn't to be - as a one-minute pit penalty assessed by Grand- Am officials on Lap 73 put Gurney out of the chase for the lead. The team finished eighth.

The penalty was issued for contact made under braking with the No. 77 Daytona Prototype.

"I reviewed the tapes with Grand-Am officials, and it was clearly an unintentional contact. Alex was late-braking, attempting to make a pass and the 77 car kept closing over on Alex and initiating contact," Stallings said. "The penalty may not have been in keeping with the infraction but I respect the officials' decision. Unfortunately, we bore some of the consequences for the aggressive driving tactics that have been going on in the series."

Despite the setback, the GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing squad refused to be deterred. From 12th place, Alex began to reel the field back in, turning his fastest lap of the race on his 88th circuit of the 2.3 mile road course. Taking advantage of late-race miscues and spins by other teams, Gurney expertly piloted the GAINSCO Pontiac Riley through the field to eighth place when the checkered flag fell.

About his opening stint, Gurney said, "I knew there would be a lot of pressure from Christian Fittipaldi and Max Angelelli at the start, so I was focused on trying to get a gap. The car was perfect and it was a great feeling to be out in the front for the first time in a Rolex race. Everything was going to plan - Bob had a great middle stint, turning solid laps and keeping the car on the lead lap. It looked like we had a real shot at the win."

Gurney said he was dismayed by the penalty, but understood the officials' point of view in enforcing the rules.

"It was a very unfortunate end to what could very likely have been our first win, but it was a great showing for the GAINSCO team nonetheless. I can't wait to get to Watkins Glen and do it all over again," Gurney said. More than anything else, Stallings said, his team's performance here has demonstrated to the Grand-Am world that GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing is a force to be reckoned with in the Daytona Prototype class - fighting right up at the front of the pack.

"'Woulda, coulda, shoulda' is a phrase that I don't use often, but in this case it's appropriate, as it's clear to the rest of the team and myself that we would have had a very strong chance of winning this event had the penalty not come down," Stallings said.

With a quick turnaround, the GAINSCO/Blackhawk team now heads to the Finger Lakes region of New York, home to the fabled Watkins Glen International circuit. Stallings said, "We're really looking forward to Watkins Glen, even though it doesn't appear to be a highly technical course, which really suits our style. There's going to be a big NASCAR crowd and it should be a great race." That race, the CompUSA 200 at the Glen, is set for Friday, Aug. 12 at 6 p.m. Eastern time and will be broadcast on a tape-delayed basis on SPEED Channel at 10 p.m. Eastern, 7 p.m. Pacific. Live timing and Web radio coverage of all the action is available at www.Grand- Am.com.

-g/bh-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Alex Gurney , Christian Fittipaldi , Max Angelelli , Bob Stallings